Hey, after awhile you have to stop tipping your hat to over-the-hill pitchers and start looking in the mirror. Mike Hampton, who hasn't had a decent season since being injured after the 2005 campaign, embarrassed the Bucs and outdid Paul Maholm 2-1 this afternoon in front of 19,566 yawning fans.
After Nate McLouth led off with a homer, Hampton held the Pirates to just two more hits over seven innings. No matter what he threw, they beat it into the infield. Change-up? Ground out. Fastball? Ground out. Off speed? Ground out.
The Bucs didn't leave anyone in scoring position because, well, they didn't have anyone in scoring position. Inexplicably, pinch-runner Nyjer Morgan, who came in after Freddy Sanchez's two-out single, never moved off first base in the ninth.
His outfielders caught one ball in the air all day; he got 17 outs on the ground. Chris Sampson pitched the eighth; two ground outs and a K. LaTroy Hawkins came on for the save; he struck out Andy LaRoche and Delwyn Young on balls in the dirt, his twist on the ground out.
He also gave up a ground ball single and got...how'd you guess? A ground out.
It's tough enough to lose a game like that, but the way Pittsburgh lost is just as infuriating. A leadoff walk, tag to second on a deep ball to center, and a two-out ground ball single by the eight hitter brought home the first tally.
The game-winning run came on two excuse-me dinks into right, a passed ball, and a ground ball single.
Oh, that run was scored by Mike Hampton, who led off with a lob shot between Sanchez and Brandon Moss and came in later on a bloop just over Sanchez's outstretched mitt. Did we mention he was playing in because of the passed ball? And notice a trend here about not getting the eight-nine hitters?
Ah, well. Maybe tomorrow the ball will have eyes against the Mets. The pitching match-ups are here, from MLB.com.
-- The Pirates drew over 75,000 for the week-end set, so maybe the fan backing can be taken off life-support. Hopefully, the on-the-field product will match the efforts of the Bucs crackerjack marketing team.